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Growth in US reinforced plastics demand

News International-French

30 Jul 2011

According to a recent study from Freedonia, the US reinforced plastics demand is expected to grow nearly 3.0% annually to 4.2 billion pounds (1.9 million tons) in 2009, valued at $7.2 billion.

(Published on October-November 2005 – JEC Magazine #20)


Steady advances will be based on continued material and technology improvements, which will enhance performance characteristics and make reinforced plastics more competitive with metal and wood. T h e rmoset resins will remain dominant, accounting for 62% of total reinforced plastics demand in 2009.


Thermoplastics are gaining ground


Better growth is expected for reinforced thermoplastics based on their easier processing and better aesthetics. Thermoset resins are dominant because of their strength, low cost, corrosion resistance and other properties. Reinforced thermoset demand advances will be spurred by cost and performance advantages in a broad range of uses. Product innovations and the availability of improved sheet moulding compounds and environmentally friendly lowstyrene- content formulations will also spur growth.


Niche opportunities are expected in areas such as rebar, bridge decking, utility poles and wind turbine blades.


Reinforced thermoplastics will exhibit more rapid growth due to their greater design flexibility, higher performance characteristics and easier processing. Polypropylene will remain the leading thermoplastic resin due to its good mechanical and thermal properties, chemical inertness, stiffness, dimensional stability and high heat resistance.


US reinforced plastics demand (million pounds)
% annual growth 1999 2004 2009 04/99 09/04
Reinforced plastics demand 3450 3670 4230 1.2 2.9
Motor vehicle 1116 1174 1324 1.0 2.4
Construction 1015 1115 1331 1.9 3.6
Producer durable equipment 464 483 581 0.8 3.8
Marine 435 450 473 0.7 1.0
Other 420 448 521 1.3 3.1

(Source: Details on these and other key findings are available in Reinforced Plastics, a new Freedonia industry study. The study provides historical US demand data (1994, 1999, 2004) plus forecasts to 2009 and 2014 by resin, reinforcing material and market).


This will create a market for 2.9 billion pounds (1.3 million tons) of resin and 1.3 billion pounds (0.6 million tons) of reinforcements.


Best growth, however, is expected for reinforced thermoplastic polyester and polycarbonate. Glass fibres, due to their low cost and good performance, will remain the leading overall reinforcement material.


Construction and producer durable equipment to offer best prospects


Motor vehicle and construction will remain the two leading markets, together accounting for 63% of total use in 2009. Opportunities for reinforced plastics use in motor vehicles will continue to be based on needs to enhance fuel efficiency and vehicle durability, while reducing maintenance requirements.


Limited growth, however, will be attributable to slow production advances. Construction applications will be driven by the lower maintenance requirements and corrosion resistant qualities of reinforced products such as pipes, tanks, shower enclosures and other bathroom components. Producer durable equipment and construction will present the best reinforced plastics opportunities, stimulated by rising demand for electrical and electronic products such as telecommunications equipment and computing systems, and needs for productivity enhancements.


Industry structure


Participants in the US reinforced plastics industry operate on a variety of levels, from producers and distributors of raw materials such as resins, additives and reinforcements, to plastic compounders and processors, to manufacturers of finished products.


Further consolidation in the reinforced plastics industry will result from saturated markets, greater globalization and fierce market share competition.